I want to add two more points of difference that sets logotherapy apart from other approaches.
The spiritual encounter
Once at a therapy conference (a general, not logotherapy conference) someone from the audience asked one of the speakers: “What do you call the spiritual encounter between two people?” The speaker answered “Viktor Frankl.”
In the meeting between therapist and client there is a cognizance of something spiritual that hangs in the air between the two of them. In religious circles this would be called “divine presence” but we can call it simply being present and encountering one another in their human essence or as Frankl refers to it, the “noetic dimension.” No other approach that I know of deliberately calls attention to the healing power of this touching of souls.
Hearing versus seeing
The second point grew out of a conversation I had with my son the musician yesterday.
While setting up his marimba in the Jerusalem shuk (open air market) where he was about to play, my son taught me something his teacher had been discussing from the book Nezir Echav by Rabbi David Cohen (the “Nazir”). The author of this book was very close to Rabbi Abraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook (first chief rabbi of Israel and preeminent teacher of spiritual development), and very well versed in philosophy as well as mysticism and all parts of Jewish study. I mention this as background because he writes about philosophy from a standpoint of someone who knew it well.
As the Nazir explains, the great philosophers based everything they said on what they could see. In contrast Judaism always put the emphasis on hearing rather than seeing. We say “Hear O Israel the Lord our God the Lord is One”
Any person, regardless of faith or nationality who has a sensitivity to this idea of listening to hear the music that comes from beyond our limited vision, is going to think in this manner.
This is the type of person Viktor Frankl was and this is the foundation upon which he based his theory called logotherapy.
Logotherapy is attuned to hearing while other approaches are intent on seeing. When you see, even though there are many levels of seeing and you can see more and more deeply into reality, beyond the mere surface level of things, in the end what you see will still be defined by your limited perspective. When you hear, you hear what is beyond you.
My son pointed out that we find this distinction in music as well. What is intuitive is a more sensitive listening but it is still something that is based inside you. In contrast the acoustic experience is about hearing what is beyond you. And so Leonard Bernstein, whose whole life was steeped in music, said he had to “wait” to “hear” the note come from beyond himself. Music is listening to what’s beyond.
Other psychological approaches are scientific and share the conceptions and perceptions of the philosophical way of thinking that is focused on examining and investigating what it is they can see, what they can understand from a human perspective.
But if we are dealing with human beings and the precious mission or call being made on each life, we have to listen to the music and try to hear that call coming through from beyond the therapist and beyond the client.
The answer to why this person has been put into these circumstances and what they are meant to do in response can only come by sensitively listening for an answer from beyond.
This may sound a little hokey or flaky but it’s not any more flaky than Leonard Bernstein or any other artist who says “It wasn’t me. It came through me. I listened to hear the music coming from beyond.”
Logotherapy is an art – the art of living. It too listens for the music, the meaning that can only come from the call from beyond made upon our lives.